Kids immerse themselves in Spanish language at UNK summer camp

Area first through sixth graders learned Spanish through interactive games and activities such as crafting, dancing, singing, playing Lotería and more.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 8:23 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Nearly two dozen area students, in the first grade through sixth grade, are spending half of June learning Spanish through the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s PAWS University summer camp.

Carlos Ortega is the teacher of the two-week long course, educating kids on how to say their name, common households items and more in Spanish. He said this age group is the ideal time to pick up on new languages.

“I love teaching it and I love that, you know, there’s students that are coming in and they want to learn my language,” he said.

Ortega moved to the United States when he was nine years old, not knowing how to speak a single word in English. He said it was intimidating being surround by others who he wasn’t able to communicate with.

Ortega said he was bullied at school and became depressed because of this. Now, he’s fluent in English, and he’s teaching other kids his native language. By teaching Spanish to the young learners, he’s hoping it can help break down this language barrier for others who may be experiencing the struggles he had.

“I feel like those students that are coming in, if they’re coming to a school where they already have some students that are speaking their language, it’s just going to help get rid of that negative environment that I went through,” Ortega said.

The kids learned through interactive games and activities such as crafting, dancing, singing, playing Lotería and more.

Eva Jura, a third grader from Axtel, is attending the two-week course. Jura said she was enjoying her time learning Spanish at the summer camp.

“It’s fun because you get to do songs and then like, so, he lets us go ahead and if we go ahead and get it finished and all right, he gives us candy at the end of the week,” Jura said.

Jura added that she and her PAWS University classmates were awarded with both American and Mexican candies for their achievements

PAWS University Director Amy Nebesniak said the planning that goes into the camp is a year-long process, but seeing the kids enjoying the activities makes it well worth the seemingly countless hours.

“They’re doing all kinds of activities, art activities, STEM activities as well as they’re doing, they’re learning,” Nebesniak said. “The kids are just, they love it, and it’s amazing how much they can pick up on in two weeks.”

The Spanish Immersion workshop is one of 87 workshops at PAWS University.

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